Eight Bells: David Walters
Published on January 24th, 2018
David Walters, the founder of David Walters Yachts, designer and builder of the Cambria series of popular cruising yachts, and co-founder of Shannon Yachts, passed away January 17 at the age of 75 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The impact that David had on the marine industry is profound and will endure for many years to come. For David, his career was more than a profession: it was a lifelong passion, and one he was always eager to share. He touched many lives both professionally and personally.
Hundreds of boats of his design are sailing the waters today, pridefully cared for and as elegant as the day he commissioned them. Countless sailors are scattered around the world on boats David helped them purchase. Every client, fellow broker, or anyone who has worked with him, will attest to his character, dedication, and devotion.
Dave’s passion for sailboats, and talent as a winning helmsman and able crew member spanned 63 years, first evident in 1953 competing in junior one-design classes from his home Riverside (CT) Yacht Club. Racing his Blue Jay “Boomerang” in 1960 Dave amassed the highest percentage winning average of any junior sailor in any class on Long Island Sound. Two years later he won the Blue Jay Class National Championship.
Dave founded and led Bucknell University’s sailing team to numerous intercollegiate victories including a Middle-Atlantic team racing regatta at the US Naval Academy noted by Sports Illustrated in November 1964. In 1967 Dave sailed with Dick Carter on “Rabbit II” on the U.S. Admiral’s Cup team and with E.W. “Skip” Etchells on the prototype of what is now the International Etchells Class in Travemunde, Germany during the IYRU selection trials for a new 3-man Olympic keelboat.
Following decades of offshore racing including campaigning his Chance 30-30, also named “Boomerang”, Dave sailed his final of scores of races to Bermuda in 2016, this from Annapolis on Brad Duncan’s Cambria 46 “Pandion”.
At just 23 years old he began his career as a Yacht Broker for Allied Boat Building Co., builders of the first fiberglass yacht to circumnavigate the globe. Much of what David learned about designing and building quality yachts he attributed to his time working with Allied under the mentorship of company president, Howard Foster. Howard soon promoted David to General Manager of the Mamaroneck, New York location.
Still in his twenties, in 1971 he established the Sound Yachts Boatyard and Marina in New Rochelle, New York. As the owner and manager of the yard, David continued his brokerage and new sales for Allied, and also began offering Ericson and Morgan yachts.
In 1975, David partnered with Walter Schulz to establish Shannon Yachts in Bristol, Rhode Island. This would be the first of two companies founded by David to earn accolades in “The World’s Best Sailboats”, by Ferenc Maté. The second was, of course, Cambria Yachts.
At the founding of Cambria Yachts, and throughout the rest of his life and career, was his wife Betsy. Together they assembled a team of world-class craftsman and boat builders in New England and built high quality and high performance cruising yachts.
Characterized by unmistakable elegance, performance and strength, combined with comfort and practicality, each boat he built was a direct reflection of his character and the family of individuals he employed.
In 1991, David joined Luke Brown & Associates where he began offering new build consultation, custom design work, and brokerage services. Over the years he traveled extensively with his clients to all corners of the world.
In 1998, he opened a sales office, representing Nautor’s Swan among other builders, in Ft Lauderdale. In 2001, eleven years after the closure of the Cambria yard, this sales office became known as David Walters Yachts. Together, he and Betsy made David Walters Yachts into a premier yacht brokerage for quality blue water boats.
David was a long-standing and significant presence at the major boat shows. To stand back and just watch David interact with customers was something else. You could see his passion for sailing. Hearing him describe every characteristic of a boat’s design, construction, and sailing characteristics in a way only someone with a lifetime of experience could, was remarkable.
In September of 2016, David asked Amanda Noon and Josh McLean to continue the legacy he’d spent a lifetime building. His company, bearing his name which carried so much importance and meaning to him, was left to their trust.
“We couldn’t be more humbled to follow in the footsteps of a man like David Walters,” said Josh McLean. “We made a promise to him that David Walters Yachts will always be guided by his founding principles.
“During one of my last visits with David I brought along one of his original sketches of his Cambria 44. I sat there, a bit stunned, as I listened to him describe each facet of the boat’s design. Why each carefully drawn line was the way it was. Even all those years after drafting it, I could see him studying his own work, critiquing himself and thinking about how it could be improved.
“Then after a long while, he instructed me to grab a pencil and paper. Time to ‘update a few things,’ he said. I started taking notes, carefully and diligently not to miss a single detail, as he described to me the changes he wanted to make. The final edit to his design. That last moment with Dave, I’ll cherish forever.”
Source: Josh McLean and Amanda Noon, co-Presidents of David Walters Yachts